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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

One of the pioneers of quantum computing warns that industry hype is getting ahead of actual performance.

Why it matters: Quantum holds the promise of revolutionizing computing. But there are still enormous hardware and software challenges that need to be overcome.

Driving the news: Last week the Association of Computing Machinery awarded its $250,000 ACM Prize to Scott Aaronson, a professor at the University of Texas, for his "groundbreaking contributions to quantum computing."

  • Aaronson helped develop the concept of quantum supremacy, a technical milestone that can only be achieved when a quantum device proves capable of solving a problem that no classical computer could solve in a reasonable amount of time.

Yes, but: Despite his technical bona fides — or perhaps because of them — Aaronson expressed skepticism about how far the quantum computing industry has come so far when it comes to achieving what it advertises.

  • "What's happened over the last decade is that there have been a tremendous number of claims about the more immediate things you can do with a quantum computer, like solve all these machine learning problems," says Aaronson.
  • "But these claims are about 90% bullsh*t."

Details: Aaronson argues that much of what quantum computing companies are doing can still be done as well or better on the best classical computers — which is precisely what happened after Google claimed quantum supremacy on a problem in 2019.

  • To Aaronson, quantum computing has yet to reach the transistor level — the equivalent of the second-generation of classical computers, which entered use in the mid-1950s.
  • "We are barely into the equivalent of vacuum tubes," he says.

The bottom line: Aaronson is still bullish on the long-term future of quantum computing hardware, which has seen "unbelievable progress over the last 20–25 years."

  • But to get further, he says, "you're going to need some revolutionary new development."

Read next: Will quantum computing ever live up to its hype?

Go deeper

1 min ago - World

Israel's "change bloc" collapses, leaving Netanyahu in charge

Bennett (L) with Netanyahu in 2015. Photo: Gali Tibbon/AFP via Getty Images

In a dramatic shift that comes amid fighting in the Gaza strip and clashes between Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel, right-wing kingmaker Naftali Bennett has announced he will no longer seek an alternative government to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Why it matters: Bennett had been on the verge of a power-sharing deal with centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid that would have made him prime minister for two years until Lapid rotated into the job. Without Bennett, Lapid has no path to a majority, and Israel will almost certainly head for its fifth election since 2019 with Netanyahu still in his post.

CDC says fully vaccinated people don't have to wear masks indoors

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Erin Clark-Pool/Getty Images

The CDC announced in new guidance Thursday that anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, regardless of crowd size.

What they're saying: "If you are fully vaccinated, you are protected, and you can start doing the things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky will say at a White House press briefing.

Colonial Pipeline reportedly paid hackers nearly $5 million in ransom

Photo: Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images

Colonial Pipeline paid hackers linked to the DarkSide cybercrime group nearly $5 million in cryptocurrency after last week's ransomware attack, Bloomberg first reported and the New York Times confirmed.

Why it matters: The breach of the largest refined fuels pipeline in the U.S. triggered new concerns about the vulnerability of the country's increasingly digitized energy systems.